1.4 Levels of partnership
As we have seen, partnership working can involve different levels of formality and commitment, from work based on quite loose and informal networks at one end of the spectrum, through to working arrangements based on formal agreements and organisational structures at the other. Himmelman (1996) has developed a model of partnership that he uses to explore these different levels of commitment, which he sees as a continuum. In Figure 7.1 we illustrate his model using the idea of a series of levels.
Networking is the most informal level of partnership working and involves exchanging information for mutual benefit. There needs to be a minimal level of trust and willingness to share information, and the contacts are usually made informally, person to person rather than organisation to organisation.
Himmelman highlights the importance of this person-to-person contact in networking, pointing out that, ‘it is clearly more helpful to be able to have a contact person through whom you can get the information required and, as necessary, have a continuing dialogue of mutual benefit’ (Himmelman, 1996, p. 27).
Coordination goes a step further. As well as exchanging information for mutual benefit, the partners agree to alter their activities or ways of working in order to achieve a common purpose. Coordination can help to address problems of fragmentation, overlap and duplication in services. For example, Sabrina might identify, though her conversations with other organisations, that they are each offering similar provision for young people on the same night of the week. As a result of exchanging information, they might decide to open on different nights, or arrange to diversify and complement each other in order to give young people a wider range of options.
Cooperation moves the partners up a step. In addition to exchanging information and coordinating activities for mutual benefit and to achieve a common purpose, organisations might share resources – including money, staffing and buildings.
At the top of the staircase, at the level of collaboration, the step of enhancing each other’s capacity for mutual benefit is added to the earlier ones. At this level, each person or organisation works at helping their partners to become better at what they do. Mick’s advocacy work might come into this category. Thinking of the needs of others, as well as one’s own self-advancement, is generally considered to be a sign of maturity (Himmelman, 1996) – hence the placement of this form of partnership at the top of the staircase, subsuming the other activities of networking, coordination and cooperation.
Himmelman (1996) argues that any of the four levels of partnership might be appropriate in different circumstances. He offers three key factors that influence the decision, the three Ts of: Time (how much is available), Trust (how well the people involved know and trust each other) and Turf (how high is the potential for turf wars, based on different values and purposes, readiness for power sharing, cultural differences, and so on).
Activity 3: Levels of partnership in practice
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